Brazil carbon emissions rise despite deep recession -researchers

SAO PAULO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Increased deforestation led to a 3.5 percent jump in Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 despite an economic recession that reduced levels of the gases produced by the energy, transportation and industrial sectors, researchers said.

An annual report released on Wednesday by Brazil’s Climate Observatory said emissions last year reached 1.92 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), with deforestation contributing 884 million tonnes.

Brazil is going through its worst recession since the Great Depression. The economy shrank by 3.5 percent last year and is expected to contract 3 percent this year.

The rise in emissions despite the sharp economic slowdown raised questions by analysts about the government’s ability to meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.

Brazil pledged to cut emissions by 43 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

“If emissions rose during a recession, if deforestation increased while the economy was contracting, we wonder what could happen when Brazil resumes economic growth,” Climate Observatory’s executive secretary Carlos Rittl told reporters.

Heat-trapping gases from the energy sector fell 5.3 percent in 2015, as power consumption in Brazil dropped for the first time in years.

Emissions from transportation, in a country that moves most of its freight by truck, fell 16 percent as the recession impacted the use of diesel and gasoline.

Greenhouse gases from the industrial sector fell 1.2 percent, with carbon intensive cement production largely contributing to the result as builders put the brakes on new projects.

Deforestation in Brazil jumped 24 percent last year, when 6,207 square kilometers of forests were destroyed. It was the first large increase in deforestation in four years.

"Deforestation in the Amazon should fall to around 3,000 square kilometers per year if we want to be in a position to meet our climate commitments," said Tasso Azevedo, a forest and climate expert who coordinated the study. (here)

Destruction of Amazon forests was in the past often linked to clearance of land for the cultivation of crops such as soybeans or for ranching. But Marcio Astrini, Amazon campaign coordinator for Greenpeace, said deforestation was less and less related to food production or commodities prices.

According to him, land grabbers boosted forest destruction seeking to guarantee possession of vast swaths of public land in the Amazon before a new rural register enters into force in 2017. (Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Grant McCool)